The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

28 August 2012

Adulthood and livelihood for persons with autism




By Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

Parents dream of bigger and better things for their children.  We raise them the best way we know how, send them to the best schools our resources can afford, and trust that this is enough to make them good, upstanding, successful adults. 

This hope takes on a different dimension for parents of children and teenagers on the spectrum.

Mona Veluz (@mightymagulang on Twitter) returns as this week's Angel Talker.


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"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

The answer to this question is one which autism parents are more invested in.  Parents of children with autism tend to be forward-thinking out of necessity.  We are advised very early that we should take a different perspective on education.  We are advised that learning and integration is more valuable than getting a diploma.  We are advised that it is imperative that we expose and train our children in viable life skills which can bring them a vocation or livelihood in the future.

Finding our niche

Of the small percentage of individuals on the spectrum who finish high school and/or college, an even smaller percentage end up with jobs.   An even smaller percentage find an enduring vocation.

Here are some learnings we can share from the success of ASP institutional member, such as the Autism Learning Center in Laguna which provides training and livelihood for many PWAs in the community.  Here are tips to help your children prepare (no matter their current age) for making the work transition.

1. Help them find a passion.  Children with autism have unique skills which need to be identified and honed.  Gabby Atienza, an adult with autism, took his passion for comic books and drawing and created a career as a graphic designer.

2. Find the right institution for skills building.  Whether it is your school or your church or barangay, it is important for an individual with autism to learn livelihood skills.  Knowledge of the child's strengths and interests will help define what career or business path he can take.  Beth Uduquin, President of ASP UP-CAMP has taken it upon herself to teach her two boys on the spectrum salesmanship using a mobile store that sells items door-to-door in their community.  She felt it important to coach her children in skills which may come in handy later in life.

3.  Find a compassionate work place.  It is important for an individual with autism to learn work appropriate behavior.  Find a small organization where he can intern and learn new skills, as well as make new friends.  The ASP National Office has very recently launched an Internship Program in partnership with learning institutions.  The society hopes to inspire more businesses to follow suit by allowing persons with autism to get work experience in an work place understanding of their strengths and limitations.

4. Look into entrepreneurship.  Parents can guide individuals with autism on the production of a food items and novelties and sell them on-line.  Retail sales via Multiply and Facebook are at an all-time high.  Interacting on-line may be easier for individuals on the spectrum. Gregarious Gifts of Carl Veluz displays a range of products on its Facebook page -- and would only produce goods by order.  His overhead is low; but his pride from earning is immeasurable.  Parent guidance on proper internet usage and on money management is imperative.

We need MORE

Institutions in the Philippines have only begun to open job readiness programs in support of an aging population of individuals with autism.  Employment, financial independence, sexuality, crime, mortality -- are only a few topics which we are only beginning to explore.  This situation is not unique to our country.  In fact, the current global experience tells us that services and opportunities are lacking to address issues of adults with autism worldwide.

Our sector needs the help of the private sector to open more opportunities for employment for individuals with autism.  Beyond a corporate social responsibility effort, businesses need to provide an inclusive workplace for growing population of atypical individuals.

Businesses should be encouraged to hire individuals with autism, especially if the skills they need are a good match for workers on the spectrum.  Businesses should be made aware of the incentives the government provides to those who hire PWDs.

Regional autism advocacy groups, over the last year, have been looking into the establishment of micro-lending programs for the benefit of individuals with autism who would like to begin a small business.  Still, the programs are in infancy and a sustainable model has yet to be designed.

Bottom line, we need more stakeholders in the challenge of providing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for individuals on the spectrum.  If you have something to contribute, please join the discussion at ASP's Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/autismsocietyphilippines.

The 5th Regional Conference on Autism will be held at San Lazaro Business and Leisure Park in Carmona Cavite on Sept 8-9, 2012. For details, please visit ASP at Facebook or autismsocietyphilippines.blogspot.com


This article is published by Manila Bulletin on 27 August 2012

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